Richard Fariņa at The Troubadour
A collection of photos by Alison Chapman McLean

Information provided by Jim McLean, Norman Druker, Ginni Little & Jonatahn Shear.

Richard Fariņa sailed for England with his dulcimer early in 1962 to transform himself into a folksinger. Carolyn followed a few weeks later, and Richard booked them as a duo at various folk clubs in London, including The Troubadour.

David Hajdu describes The Troubadour thus:

"A dark, woody, late-Victorian place in Earls Court, an after-work stop for tea or even coffee, the Troubadour had a room in the basement--a low, windowless space with warm acoustics." (p. 109)

The manager, Anthea Joseph, remembered Richard Fariņa as "a delightful character."

Standing behind Richard are folksingers Jim Connor and Richard Lockmiller, from Gadsden, Alabama, whom Fariņa met through their manager, Tom Costner. (Fariņa wrote the liner notes to Richard & Jim's first album.) The stars and stripes draped behind suggest that this was an evening of American performers.

The dulcimer shown was apparently Fariņa's first--the one he shoveled snow with in Idaho. Note the unusual width! This model was much cruder than the Hennessey dulcimer that Richard used on the Vanguard albums.

The drummer is Jon Shear, who was studying at London School of Economics under Karl Popper, on a Fulbright scholarship from Brandeis University. He fondly recalls Fariņa:

"Dick and I were quite close during the time in London, often playing together maybe four or five times a week. He called his dulcimer a "mountain dulcimer." I enjoyed playing Indian rythms (and taught Dick several, he especially, as I recall, enjoyed one 7 beat rhythm that we played a lot, and I think he used on his album recorded in New York in July of 1964). I had an unusual Algerian drum that I bought in Paris (where Dick and I were friends in the summer of 1962) at a bar run by an Algerian named "Al." He said he'd made it from a part of a warplane downed in Algeria. I don't know whether that was true or not, but as soon as I heard the drum's tone in Al's bar I knew I wanted it.

The Troubadour was a really nice place. We went there a lot. One odd feature was that things got going there just as the pubs closed, and right next door was a tough motorcyclists' bar (leathers and all) that was just letting out--and it turned out they were gay, too! A very surprising combination to us at the time.

Lots and lots of fine memories together with Dick. They remain close to my heart. The last time I saw him was the day I got back to New York in the summer of 1964. We bumped into each other on the street by chance as I was walking along with my bag. What a surprise! He said "We're cutting a record today, bring your drum and come on," or something like that. But I told him I'd given it away before leaving London (I liked to travel light in those days), and didn't have one with me. He said to try to find one and make it anyway, but I didn't. (I was always a little sorry about that.) I was just passing through NY, and the next thing I heard about Dick was the great news about his book--and his tragic death. So sad. But all my memories of him are just wonderful."

--Jonathan Shear, 2009


This photo appears in a cropped version in Positively 4th Street, where it is simply credited "courtesy of Eric von Schmidt."

In the fuller view we find Fariņa surrounded by Bob Davenport (standing) and Martin Carthy (sitting, wearing a watch). Bob Davenport was an important figure in the London folk scene; it was from him that Bob Dylan learned "Nottamun Town" and "Poor Miner's Lament," which he adapted for his own songs "Masters of War" and "Only a Hobo."

The decor in the background of the photo suggests it was taken around Christmas time.

Fariņa, Dylan, and von Schmidt living it up. Off to the side are Ethan Signer (back turned) and Martin Carthy.

This photo also appeared in Positively 4th Street, but was not credited to Alison Chapman McLean, and Martin Carthy was not identified. Click to enlarge.

A slightly different shot.

Eric von Schmidt on mandolin, Fariņa on harmonica, Ethan Signer on guitar.

Fariņa (bottom right) singing with Martin Carthy, Nigel Denver, and Bob Davenport. This photo was recently published in Folk Roots magazine in a career retrospective of Davenport.

Part Two: Other Folkies at The Troubadour

Many, many thanks to Alison Chapman McLean for her historic photos. Thanks also to her husband, Jim McLean, and Norman Druker, and Ian A. Anderson of Folk Roots magazine.

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